The Happening…Project of the fan favorite and critically acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan, responsible for such unique films as the Village, Signs, and Lady in the Water. He is supposedly a master of suspense, just as Hitchcok was back in the day. His reputation of including a twist or surprise ending has become a prominent signature of his work.
The Happening is a modern day story set in a real life society, of a tragic event that causes panic and confusion among citizens. This is a classic paranoia film. Anything that can possibly go wrong probably will, and you have no chance to prepare for it. The Happening takes us on an intense emotional thrill ride, jumping from moment to moment before the viewer has a chance to come to terms with the previous events.
Night has always done a good job of playing on our fears. The fear of the unknown, the fear of the inescapable etc., all work as a driving force for the plot. The multi mysteries that surround his movies, keep us guessing while hanging on the edge of our seat, and this film is a perfect example.
Being a rated R film, the extreme content has risen and perhaps overstepped its bounds, going a bit beyond the realm of good taste. Night takes things considerably a little too far in some scenes that borderline offensive. Earning the R rating seemed to be an achievement that he pushed for instead of concentrating on making a solid story with just enough content to get the point across. Although, Night removed some of the material he felt was gratuitous, still enough remains to label the film as disturbing.
The whole idea behind this film seems very far fetched. How could an invisible toxin be causing people to loose control of their thoughts and go so far as to intentionally murder themselves? If that weren’t illogical enough, we are expected to believe that this toxin immediately when it enters the brain, causes the person to find unique and creative ways to commit suicide. I find that hard to swallow.
I have to complain about a particular scene in a diner where it seems people are just sitting around watching mutilation videos on their cell phone at full length. We already know the toxin makes people kill themselves so the video is basically redundant, painful to watch, and non- satisfying.
You almost wonder what is it that Mr. Shyamalan is trying to achieve be repeatedly showing murder suicide? If this were a straight forward horror film all things would be accepted but because Night is known for telling a more thrilling and suspenseful tale, it feels oddly out of place. Perhaps he is transitioning more into being a horror film director?
I don’t particularly care for the acting or script in this one, I felt like the main characters weren’t realistic enough or in the mindset of everything that’s happening. I don’t think this was a good role for Mark Whalberg. It was much different from what we are used to seeing and expecting from him. His character was a very Mamby Pamby sort of guy, and I think it was a little bit of a stretch for someone as exciting as Mark. As for his costar and on screen girlfriend Zooey Deschanel, I feel like she is getting type casted as the innocent but confused girl next door, and her roles become all the same to me. In this one she looked distant and almost aloof as in many others. The little girl is barely there and says practically nothing, only serving the purpose of a test-drive experience for the couple on what it would be like to have a child of their own, which is a central conflict between them from the beginning of the movie, and the key to what’s holding back there relationship. However M. Night chose to remove the beginning scene which would have explained this, instead we only learn it much later. Still I have to agree with his choice to remove the scene as it was too revealing and lengthy, and not really what the film was supposed to be about. Other characters such as the elderly and delusional Miss Jones have no relevance to the plot or to the development of the story.
I think some of the attention and focus was misdirected at things that really didn’t have any relevance, such as in the scene with the wooden swing, why was there so much emphasis on the tree branch swaying? It seems odd and unnecessary, other than to build even more paranoia to an already intense situation. It just felt pointless.
There are a few things that work in this picture, such as the main character, Elliot(Played by Whalberg) as a science teacher, which gives the viewer a sense of hope that whatever is happening will be scientifically explained at some point in the movie. It also works in a sense that as you watch you’re going through perhaps the same thought process as Elliot, trying to determine a logical explanation.
The end of the movie provides you with relief and a safe return of our main characters, and we see that overcoming this event together has helped them move on with their relationship, but there is little explanation given as to the why or how this all happened, and will it ever happen again? Just like a good Hitchcock flim, the mystery remains.
Then in one final scene, the horror has returned.
Overall I think this film is definitely worth watching, it’s a good couples movie but I don’t think it has the same effect on a large group of people. There are just too many things the film does poorly to rank it with the best of its kind. Shyamalan has done better work.